Cigarettes and Your Teeth

Smoking cigarettes is a habit affecting the health of millions of Americans.  Most people are aware of the risks for lung cancer and emphysema from cigarettes.  What you may not know is that smoking also damages the teeth! In this week’s blog, we will cover the relationship between cigarettes and your teeth.

Cosmetic Challenges

It is not difficult to recognize a heavy smoker by the appearance of his or her smile.  Smokers typically have teeth stained a dark yellow color, potentially accompanied by brown marks bordering the scalloped gum lines.

The constant sucking motion of smoking cigarettes also makes esthetic changes to the soft tissues of the lips, creating unsightly lines and wrinkles.

The cosmetic challenges caused by cigarettes can be overcome with cosmetic dental treatments.  If you are a smoker and want to improve the appearance of your smile, ask our dentists which dental treatments will produce the results you desire.

Oral Health Challenges

More important than cosmetic challenges are the risks to your oral health!  Smoking cigarettes is not just a cosmetic problem.  It actually makes you more likely to suffer from oral diseases.  Here is how.

Cavity Risk

Smoking cigarettes increases your risk for cavities.  There are multiple factors that contribute to this elevated risk.  First, smoking anything gives you a dry mouth.  In a dry mouth, the lack of saliva leads to an acidic pH, or overall acidic environment.  Cavity-causing bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so by smoking, you are making it easier for those bacteria to develop decay on your teeth. 

The dryness caused by smoking also makes dental plaque more difficult to remove.  This sticky plaque contains those cavity-causing bacteria, and the longer it remains on the teeth, the more likely it is to break down enamel. 

Gum Disease Risk

Gum disease, like cavities, is also the result of bacteria living in dental plaque.  Someone with a dry mouth will always have a higher risk for gum disease than someone with a healthy quantity and quality of saliva.  With cigarette smokers, the risk is even higher.

This is due to the effect of nicotine on the gum tissues.  Nicotine causes constriction of the tiniest blood vessels in our extremities, and the gums are an extremity.  This means that nicotine impairs the blood supply to the gums. 

Without a healthy blood supply, our bodies are less capable of fighting the toxins produced by the bacteria in dental plaque.  Smokers have a particularly high risk for progressive gum disease, and they actually experience fewer symptoms. 

We often call periodontal disease a “silent” disease because people can easily miss the signs, and there are few noteworthy symptoms.  In cigarettes, this “silence” is exaggerated, making it more likely for a smoker to experience ever-worsening gum disease without noticing a problem.  (Consistent dental visits are a must to catch the signs of gum disease!)

Oral Cancer Risk

The gravest risk to your oral health from cigarettes is oral cancer.  Smokers’ risk for oral cancer is ten times higher than non-smokers.  Ten times!  The effect of smoking on oral cancer risk accumulates over time, so the longer you smoke, the higher your risk will be. 

This also tells us that quitting earlier helps you lower your risk.  If you are a smoker, it is time to quit!

More Questions about how Cigarette Smoking affects Your Teeth?

Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara and Dr. Summer.  They can answer any question you have about smoking cigarettes and the negative impact it has on your teeth.

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